Bivalves in a bottleneck: taxonomy, phylogeography and conservation of freshwater mussels (Bivalvia: Unionoida) in Australasia
- First Online:
- 767 Downloads
The conservation biology of Australasian freshwater mussels is hindered by lack of a taxonomic framework that employs molecular data as a complement to shell characters, larval forms and internal anatomy. The fauna includes more than 32 known species (30+ Hyriidae, 2 Unionidae), but has not been revised for 55 years, despite minor amendments. The hyriids are relics of Gondwana, represented in Australia and New Guinea by the ancestral Velesunioninae and in Australia and New Zealand by the Hyriinae (Tribe Hyridellini). Many taxonomic and phylogeographic issues await resolution, including the relationships between Australasian and South American species, and between Australian and New Zealand species, and the status of species in New Guinea (including uncertain reports of Unionidae) and the Solomon Islands. Once these are clarified, it will be easier to identify threatened species and evaluate the conservation status of the fauna. At present, only seven taxa are named in the IUCN Red List or under national/state legislation, and these are not representative. Threatening processes include altered flow regimes, catchment disturbances, salinisation, pollution and invasive species. While the need for a taxonomic revision is paramount, progress in conservation may depend also upon involving the wider community.